Vincent Lacoste has built a career as a sort of lovable goof, but in Amanda, he gives the most restrained performance of his career.
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Vincent Lacoste has built a career as a sort of lovable goof, whether as the braces-wearing clueless teenager of The French Kissers, the doctor hopeful in Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor, or the surprisingly sane drug-dealer-babysitter-suitor in In Bed with Victoria. He’s dialed it up to 11 as Julie Delpy’s psychopathic son in Lolo, and dialed up the pathos in My Days of Glory. He’s a great comic actor, but what keeps you watching is the warmth and the pathos that he brings beneath his characters’ often carefree exteriors.
In Amanda, he gives the most restrained performance of his career, completely à propos for Mikhaël Hers’s quietly devastating portrait of grief and family. Lacoste stars as David, a twentysomething who survives on odd-jobs, and is extremely close to his older sister and her young daughter, Amanda. He’s aimless and lacks responsibilities, but he’s not emotionally immature.
The first act of the film sets up David’s tender relationship with his niece, Amanda, and his casual ease with his sister. With them, he takes up lots of space, but slouches companionably and comfortably, bringing his tall frame down to their level. He listens while he talks to them and shows affection, even if he also slumps into his phone. He also begins a tentative romance with Léna (Stacy Martin), his insecurity often showing in how he makes himself small, folding his hands in front of him.
About 20 minutes into the film, tragedy strikes, and he suddenly finds himself responsible for caring for Amanda while dealing with the grief from his sister’s death. When he witnesses the aftermath of the massacre that killed his sister, he goes stock still in shock. His walk loses its fluidity, moving in fits and starts, like he can barely put one foot in front of the other. In his sister’s apartment, he cries softly, his body completely still. The first time he looks on Amanda, a sudden sense of horror and fear crosses his face, his eyes bugging out, as he realises the new responsibility he has, and the seeming impossibility of rising to the challenge. When he struggles to tell Amanda what happened, his entire body tenses, no longer casually slouched, and he becomes very still. When he comforts Amanda with a hug, there’s a lightness to his embrace, like he’s trying to hold himself back from clinging to her, his only family left.
The film follows David as he becomes more comfortable in his newfound role as a parent, struggles to cope with responsibility, all while showing Amanda enormous affection. It’s a big-hearted performance that itself never goes big. Like the film, Lacoste has an incredibly light touch that you could easily mistake this incredible performance for someone just ‘being’.
Amanda is available on VOD in the UK. It is still seeking distribution in Canada and the US.
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